Two Arrested for Trespass at Restricted Pāhoa Lava Flow
By Maui Now Staff
Two Puna residents were arrested for trespass after they were found in a restricted area near an active lava flow above Pāhoa town at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Ruth Crawfort, 65, of ʻĀinaloa, and Stephen Koch, 59, of Nānāwale were arrested for second degree criminal trespassing, after police responded to reports of two individuals beyond a County of Hawaiʻi property fence in the lava flow area.
Upon arrival, police say they observed the two facing the flow and taking photos within five feet of the lava.
Police say they were in possession of two golf clubs that had a ball of hardened lava on the end.
According to police reports, officers later located a pickup truck and sports-utility vehicle in the Pāhoa Community Center parking lot registered to each arrested individual. Through the front windshield, police said officers observed household utensils dipped in lava on the dashboard.
The path of travel indicated that the two individuals had crossed private property to reach the viewing location, according to police reports.
Crawford and Koch were each charged and released after posting $250 bail each.
Police are encouraging members of the public to report sighting of persons who may be trespassing near the active lava flow or in areas beyond police barricades.
State officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources issued an advisory last month noting that entry into closed lands is a violation of Hawaiʻi Administrative Rule Sec. 13-221-4 and Hawaiʻi Revised Statute 171-6, and is subject of penalty up to $5,000 for the first offense.
Governor Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation last month in preparation of the lava flow crossing Highway 130, that temporarily enhanced the penalty for any offense committed during the emergency.
DLNR closed both the Wao Kele O Puna forest reserve, and Kahaualea Natural Area Reserve. At the time, DLNR chairperson, William Aila Jr. said, “DLNR intends to prosecute any trespassers who willfully violate the closures and place enforcement officers and emergency personnel at increased risk.”